Special Sub-Topic: Agnosticism
|The etymology of the word 'agnostic' is from which language?|
Greek. The word is made up from the prefix 'a', meaning without, and 'gnosis', meaning knowledge. It should not be confused with the Latin 'agnoso', meaning 'to acknowledge or assent', which has passed into some languages (not English) with that meaning. Agnosticism contrasts with atheism, which is the belief that there is no god or gods. The word 'atheism' also derives from Greek, as 'theos' is the Greek word for God.
|Which English scientist, and strong supporter of Darwin, came up with the name of agnosticism in the nineteenth century to explain his beliefs?|
Thomas Huxley. Huxley is often described as 'Darwin's Bulldog' for the support he gave to the then controversial theory of evolution. Huxley's views on religion were well documented. In 1860, he wrote to Charles Kingsley, who was a clergyman as well as the author of several books, including the well known 'The Water-Babies'. In it, Huxley stated that 'I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it.'
|Which American political leader was nicknamed 'The Great Agnostic'?|
Robert Ingersoll. Ingersoll fought in the American Civil War, having been the commander of a cavalry regiment raised in Illinois. He became Attorney General of Illinois after the war and held strong, and what were then considered to be radical, views on such matters as slavery and voting rights for women. Ingersoll's religious stance was also a cause of controversy, as he advocated humanistic principles and made fun of orthodox religion. Despite this, he became a popular public figure. Whitman was one of Ingersoll's close friends and supporters. Both Faulkner and Lewis reference him in their writings.
|The collection of hymns and religious writings called the Rigveda (or Rig Veda) acknowledges agnosticism. With which religion is this work associated?|
Hinduism. The Rigveda contains over 1,000 hymns, and is the oldest of four works which form the basis of the Hindu religion. The Rigveda covers the mythology of the Hindu gods, and is dated to 1200 - 900 BC. The tenth chapter includes these words: 'Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it?' as part of the Creation Hymn (Nasadiya Sukta).
|The Roman Catholic church acknowledges the validity of agnosticism to some degree.|
True. The Catholic Church acknowledges what it calls 'partial agnosticism' and recognises that there are reasons for examining beliefs. It is, however, totally opposed to the view that human reason does not have the ability to know God. Pope Benedict XVI expressed the opinion, in a speech of 2011, that 'it is better to be a searching agnostic than a false believer'.
|The actor W. C. Fields was well known as a non-believer, although he did read the Bible during his final days. What reason did he give?|
I'm looking for loopholes. Fields was born as William Claude Duckenfield, and became known as a hater of women, animals and children and lover of alcohol. He is described as agnostic and atheist, depending on which source you read, so I've included him in this quiz. All the options I gave you are partial quotes from Fields. They are 'women are like elephants. I like to look at them but I wouldn't want to own one'; 'I'm free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally' and 'the world is getting to be such a dangerous place, a man is lucky to get out of it alive'. He also said 'more people are driven insane through religious hysteria than by drinking alcohol', so deserves his place in here.
|'Why I am not a Christian' was written in 1927 by which British philosopher?|
Bertrand Russell. Russell described himself as both agnostic and atheist, and believed that religion was little more than superstition. He included other ideologies, such as communism, under the umbrella of religion. He held them responsible for many of the ills that have befallen mankind, such as wars, and believed that religious organisations encouraged dependency and discouraged individuality. He was a member of the British Humanist Society and died in 1970. The other three philosophers named were all dead long before 1927 - Bacon died in 1626, Priestley in 1804 and Bentham in 1832.
|The idea of agnosticism was part of Ancient Greek philosophy.|
True. Skepticism (or scepticism, as the UK spells it) has its roots in both the Greek language (skepsis meaning enquiry) and philosophy. Thinkers such as Pyrrho and Protagoras put forward the proposition that it was impossible to be certain about the existence of gods. Protagoras is often seen as the first agnostic. He wrote the following words: 'concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not' in a work called 'On the Gods'.
|The eighteenth philosopher and agnostic David Hume was born in which country of the British Isles?|
Scotland. Hume was born in Edinburgh in 1711 and is acknowledged as an important contributor to Western philosophy. His works include 'A Treatise of Human Nature' (1739/1740) and 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion', which was published in 1779 after his death. According to the 'Britannica Concise Encyclopaedia', when asked if he was an atheist, Hume said he 'did not have enough faith to believe there was no god'.
|Which author of the 'His Dark Materials' books described himself as both atheist and agnostic?|
Philip Pullman. Pullman became well known for his views on religion, and his books reflect his beliefs. 'His Dark Materials' portrays a very different world, and has been criticised for the way it depicts religion. Pullman is a supporter of Humanism, which is based on 'reason, ethics and social justice', and was one of the opponents of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the UK in 2010.
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